Totemball (Xbox 360) review
"The release of the Xbox Live Vision camera has opened up an avenue of opportunity for the Xbox 360. Games have taken advantage of the Vision by using face-in-game technology and allowing you to see real-time video streams of your opponents during gameplay. However, TotemBall, the first game that uses the camera exclusively to dictate gameplay, is a terrible showcase of what the Vision can do. "
The release of the Xbox Live Vision camera has opened up an avenue of opportunity for the Xbox 360. Games have taken advantage of the Vision by using face-in-game technology and allowing you to see real-time video streams of your opponents during gameplay. However, TotemBall, the first game that uses the camera exclusively to dictate gameplay, is a terrible showcase of what the Vision can do.
You control a ball-mounted turtle using the camera; your goal in each level is to collect enough totems and get to the level exit. There is also plenty of treasure scattered around to increase your score. The basis of the game is solid, but the horrendously bad controls make playing TotemBall extremely frustrating. You are meant to set up the camera so it’s centred on you. The video stream will appear faintly over the game screen, and two waterfalls border either side of the screen. To move the ball forward you need to raise your hands to the top of both waterfalls. Lowering your hands to the bottom of each waterfall will make the ball roll backwards, and if you want to turn, raise one hand to the top of the waterfall and the other to the bottom (raise your right hand and lower your left to turn right). The motion recognition is extremely twitchy, especially when you aren’t in ideal lighting conditions. Moving around in itself is a chore; you’ll often find the ball turns rapidly by itself. It feels like you have no control at times. A couple of different modes are included, such as time-attack and a two-player juggling mode, but it doesn’t change the fact that TotemBall’s controls are horrible.
TotemBall’s environments are mostly the same throughout the game. The 3D forest-like environments are average at best and become very repetitive if you can bring yourself to play for more than ten minutes. The only redeeming quality is the vibrancy of colour. If you’re going to be stuck with the same environments, they may as well be nice and bright. It’s a similar story when it comes to the game’s sound. The levels start in near silence and as you collect totems, more and more instruments start to play in the background. This is an interesting concept, but it doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay or benefit the sound a great deal.
Considering this is the first game to make exclusive use of the Xbox Live Vision camera, it is an extremely disappointing effort. TotemBall is a free download, so it’s probably worth at least a try. However, you probably won’t want to play it again after you’ve tried it. Even the most dedicated achievement hunter will find it difficult to grind out the game’s relatively uninspiring achievements.
Community review by PAJ89 (October 27, 2007)
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